October 29 2012
It’s 4 o’clock, time for tea. The wind has just picked up as Sandy makes her way toward us, her intentions still a secret. Last night we watched the sky move in layered bands of moody gray, moving in slow and steady from the north like an army deployed toward an unseen enemy, which in this case is the hurricane coming up from the south.
As I watched the sky I felt both the marvel and the terror of nature followed by a sharp sadness that in spite of nature continually trying to wake us up to reality we insist on staying asleep. As Gerhard Richter says in the documentary “Gerhard Richter Painting,” “waking up to reality is terrifying.” Which is perhaps why so many stay asleep. But what is the terror of reality except the acceptance that we control nothing, and of course this hurricane is a perfect example of that. But if I may parse Richter’s phrase, I would point out that he doesn’t say reality is frightening, but that waking up to it is. My interpretation of that is that in waking up to reality one is waking up to self-responsibility, which I think is what truly terrifies us.
I, Like many people, have been Google-ing “Weather,NYC,” far too many times in the past 24 hours. What do I hope to learn? That reality isn’t terrifying? It’s a fine line between acquiring enough information to make decisions about whether to evacuate, how much ice-cream will tide me over (if the freezer continues to function) and continuing to Google in the ridiculous hope that someone, somewhere, will be able to tell me everything is going to be okay.
I’ve heard people say they think hurricanes are fun and it’s all I can do not to wish them swept away by one. In ’91, during Hurricane Andrew, my daughter and I crouched in the kitchen of our beachfront rental in Provincetown and watched a roof fly past the window. Later we discovered it was the roof to my bedroom. Or, how about a couple of years later when, during a nor’easter – same town different building – I awoke in the night feeling uneasy. So I got out of bed and as I rounded the foot of it the side window blew in leaving shards of glass impaled where my head had just lain. Real fun.
And yet there’s something both awesome and humbling to see this aggressive city in retreat; all public transportation, bridges and tunnels closed down, streets deserted, shops long emptied of supplies and some 10 million people, people who live their lives in constant motion, brought to a standstill.
I bet this is one October Surprise neither of the presidential candidates expected. They too, for all their millions raised must, like the rest of us, wait and see. As the saying goes: “You can plan but you can’t plan the outcome.”
To be contd….hopefully!
October 30 2012 THERE SHE GOES
Sandy left more quickly than expected having achieved monumental havoc in short order.
We, here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, are among the lucky few who escaped her impact. Apart from a few terrifying gusts and a bit of rain we survived the night peacefully, watching a Queen documentary – Queen the band, not Queen the Queen – noshing on soup, bathing by candlelight and sleeping undisturbed while the lower 3rd of Manhattan suffered terrible flooding and loss of power. My daughter had texted me during the evening saying she was watching cars float down her street on the Lower East Side. The city will be without transportation for days and many areas will remain without power. Homes and power stations have burned, trees are felled, debris of all kinds litters the streets.
When we awoke this morning we were surprised to be unscathed and selfishly enjoyed the peace of no traffic or planes. How random life is, how indiscriminating is nature. This morning a rare break in the clouds made for a burst of sunshine even as the rain fell and a momentary rainbow flung its myth upon the surface of the river.